Special Education Paraeducator Supports Kids In and Out of the Classroom

Jerard Rucker supports the growth of his students who have social, emotional or learning challenges as a special education paraeducator at Hammond Elementary School. Though his students have varied needs, he said they all have something very important in common: “They’re all kids that are very capable of doing the work. They just need to be helped along.”

Rucker came to Howard County schools wanting “to work with children who wanted more out of life, to be educated and do positive things” and brought with him a professional background in mental health and social services. Previously he was a case manager in an East Baltimore clinic, assisting adolescents with mental health disorders with community resources, and a residential counselor at a group home, supporting young males transitioning out of the juvenile justice system.

Rucker, who played basketball in high school and college, takes his passion for working with kids outside the classroom. He coaches Baltimore high school students through the Amateur Athletic Union’s Team Melo and runs his own basketball training business for youth. His basketball involvement and paraeducator role are connected by “helping kids with self-esteem, confidence and social skills, which can help you in school and throughout life,” Rucker said.

Rucker credits his parents for teaching him about giving back to the community, which ultimately led to his current career. Both his parents worked in Baltimore city public schools and continue to help the homeless and others less fortunate.

“He has a wonderful ability to connect and build relationships with children,” said Hammond Elementary School Principal Kimberlyn Pratesi when describing Rucker. “It’s been very beneficial for us to have someone who can help build on their strengths and be encouraging.”

Rucker is just one of many Howard County school staff employees who go above and beyond, and deserve recognition, especially on National Education Support Professionals Day on Nov. 16. HCPSS is proud to provide 659 special education paraeducators throughout the system, including four who joined for FY17.

For the original Staff Focus story on Jerard Rucker, visit http://hcpssne.ws/1X88cJg.